Firms garner honors

John and Kim Anderson came to the Superior Business Awards luncheon Thursday with no expectations. "Driving over we said, 'Good, another free lunch,'" Kim Anderson said. After taking a look at the list of businesses that had been nominated for aw...

John and Kim Anderson came to the Superior Business Awards luncheon Thursday with no expectations.

"Driving over we said, 'Good, another free lunch,'" Kim Anderson said.

After taking a look at the list of businesses that had been nominated for awards, the owners of Portable Bore Repair and Jim's Welding weren't hoping for one.

They were in for a surprise.

The couple received the Small Business of the Year Award and also won the Business Plan Competition, which could net them a $20,000 zero-interest loan.


"This is really, truly an honor," John Anderson said as he accepted the small business award. After a list of thanks that included Jesus Christ, the Development Association and National Bank of Commerce, he turned to the woman at his side.

"Last of all, I've just got to thank my wife," he said, choking back tears. "She is without a doubt the best business partner I could ever ask for ... She has my back every minute of every day."

Portable Bore Repair was launched in 2004 from a South Range garage. Today, it employs eight full-time and eight part-time seasonal workers. With the purchase of Jim's Welding nine months ago, the fabrication, welding and machine shop continues to grow.

"For us, most important thing is not the bottom dollar," John Anderson said. "That is strictly a by-product of what we do. The relationships we build with our customers, the trust, that is our main focus."

"In order to be here 10 years from now, you have to give out quality service," his wife added.

Midwest Energy Resources Company snagged the Large Business of the Year Award. Launched in 1976, the company has 91 full-time and eight seasonal employees who contribute to the operation of the largest bulk commodity terminal on the Great Lakes. More coal is shipped through the Midwest terminal than all other Great Lakes terminals combined. Midwest also set the industry standard for coal dust control and suppression.

"This is just a wonderful place to do business, Superior, Wisconsin," said Fred Shusterich, president of the Midwest Energy Resources Terminal. "We're just happy and proud to be here. Thank you for the award."

The Emerging/Innovative Business Award went to Clearly Superior, a research and development based manufacturing plant focusing on hydration and nutrition therapy for people who have difficulty swallowing. It produces AquaCareH2O, a new thickened water product that is getting good reviews.


While the idea for AquaCareH2O came from a brilliant chemist, it took a team of good people and support from the community to bring the product to the marketplace, said Kyle Torvinen, a company shareholder.

"I think how we fell about the community is sort of indicated by the name of the company, Clearly Superior," he said after accepting the award.

Award winners said the list of nominees was top-notch.

"Very good company; very impressive room of businesses and people," Shusterich said. "That's the way Superior is."

Along with the awards, four Superior businessmen were inducted into the Business Hall of Fame - Al Amatuzio, founder and owner of AMSOIL Inc., Bill Vinje, founder of Halvor Lines Inc., Harry Lurye who opened Lurye & Sons Store 100 years ago and Captain Alexander McDougall, who founded seven shipyards, launched 200 ships and earned 34 patents before his death in 1923.

"We're honored to be here with people like Al (Amatuzio) and get the same shape award," Torvinen said with a smile.

Amatuzio, like McDougall, wasn't afraid to follow his dreams. When McDougall decided to launch the first whaleback ship, he was met with a lack of investors so he built the prototype himself. When Amatuzio was told he couldn't develop the first synthetic motor oil, he did it anyway.

"I proved them wrong," he said. And, he added, "I had so damn much fun doing it."


Today, the Superior-based AMSOIL employs more than 250 people locally and provides synthetic motor oil and other innovative products like organic fertilizer worldwide.

Amatuzio questioned why Superior hasn't grown as big as its neighbor across the bridge, Duluth.

"Maybe this city is just the right size," Amatuzio said.

McDougall would have felt at home with the honorees, said Susan Anderson, director of Superior Public Museums.

"You are his kind of people," she said. "He would shake a cigar at you, however, and tell you to get back to work."

About 105 people attended the event, filling the room at Barker's Island Inn. Many left with a better idea of Superior's bustling business environment.

"It's important to celebrate those people who invested in our community 100 years ago as well as those people who invested in our community a year ago," said Dave Minor, president and CEO of the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce.

And, he noted, the Chamber, Development Association and Superior Business Improvement District are ready to take nominations for next year's awards.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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